Movies and TV shows often depict a heart attack as something easy to spot. In real life, it's not always easy to tell if you or someone you know is having a heart attack.
Many heart attacks start slowly and may not include chest pain. Often, people think their symptoms are a sign of something else, like heartburn, or they're embarrassed to cause a scene, so they do nothing.
Even people who've already had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms, as each attack can be dramatically different. Most people having a heart attack wait too long to get medical help. That delay can lead to serious heart damage and even death. If you or someone you are with may be having a heart attack, you need to take action quickly. The heart muscle begins to die within 20 minutes of the onset of symptoms. Doctors with The Christ Hospital recommend this heart emergency plan:
Step 1: Know if you're at risk
You're at risk for having a heart attack if you smoke or have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of heart attack. If any of these apply to you, print and fill out a Heart Attack Action Plan card now. Always have it ready to hand over to the EMS team. It could help them save your life.
Step 2: Choose a hospital now
You have the right to choose where you want the ambulance to take you for treatment. The closest hospital is not always the best hospital. Some hospitals don't have the resources to provide the fastest and most advanced treatments. Choose a hospital known for its heart attack care, and write it down on your Heart Attack Action Plan card.
Step 3: Know the symptoms
When you know the symptoms of a heart attack, you know when to call 9-1-1. Symptoms can include:
Call 9-1-1 within the first five minutes of the onset of symptoms, even if you aren't sure it's a heart attack. Chew an aspirin and rest while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Read The Christ Hospital's "Heart Attack Survival Guide" to learn more about how to prepare for a heart emergency and why it's important to choose a hospital that offers advanced heart attack care.